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How the Health Care System Screws Us

by Published on

If you want to understand just how nonsensical — and myopic — our health care system is, I encourage you to listen to last week’s episode of the radio program, This American Life.

You can listen to the show here.

It was co-produced with NPR News, and explores the health care debate in-depth. (TAL and NPR co-produced a similar program last year about the financial crisis — for my money still the most enlightening piece of journalism produced about the Wall Street meltdown — and, yes, that pun was intended.)

Their look at health care is also engrossing. Particularly fascinating is Chana Joffe-Walt’s narrative of how drug companies use “coupons” to trick patients into buying the most expensive, name-brand drugs (even when generics are available).

The drug companies make a killing on that by passing the added costs on to the health insurance company, which ultimately pays for the drug. Now, if you’re thinking that the health insurance company isn’t going to swallow that extra cost, you’d be right. The insurance company passes the cost for the more expensive drug back to all of us through higher premiums. It’s a circular scam.

If you’re interested in the health care debate, the show is a must-listen.

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.